The Philanthropic Spirit

By Melinda Millsap

Each year around the holidays, SpaceCoast Living celebrates a few of the generous citizens who give back all year-long. Every year there is an abundance of people who are worthy of highlighting. Thanks to all those who exemplify the philanthropic spirit.

David Cohen

Chairman of the Board of Directors – The Children’s Hunger Project

“Dave is a hands-on chairman of our Board of Directors and plays an integral role in our activities,” said Robert Barnes, founder of The Children’s Hunger Project. This nonprofit organization provides weekend food backpacks to hungry elementary school-age children to ensure they do not have to experience hunger and malnutrition. Dave was part of the original group that organized this charity. “It was his donation that jump-started it and enabled us to feed 100 kids right away at Riviera Elementary School in Palm Bay,” Robert explained. The nonprofit organization is now providing weekend meals for more than 1,000 children in Brevard County. Dave said he got involved when he heard some disheartening news about the number of children who need assistance in Brevard County. “We often send money to help other countries, but this is in our backyard,” Dave said. “These are our neighbors.” He said 75 percent of children in Palm Bay need assistance, and there are 26 homeless families who have children attending Riviera Elementary School. For more information about the Children’s Hunger Project, go to 

*Dave is pictured above in header image.

Lynn Elledge

Cat Adoption Ambassador – SPCA of North Brevard Pet Adoption Center and Clinic

Lynn Elledge has volunteered for the SPCA of North Brevard for the past three years and recently became the center’s first Cat Adoption Ambassador. She helps clients select the perfect feline companion for their homes. Lynn has worked with animals all her life, so she knows how to match a pet with a potential owner. Before moving to Florida, she had a small farm in Michigan where she often cared for stray and injured animals. When someone comes in to adopt a cat, Lynn asks questions that help her make the match. “The highlight of my day is when I make the perfect match and see the look on their (the new owner’s) face,” Lynn said. The SPCA of North Brevard Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization that protects and provides a voice to the homeless animals of Brevard County. Founded in 1979 in Titusville, the SPCA is the largest private no-kill animal rescue group in Brevard. The group finds homes for more than 1,200 animals a year. It is the only adoption facility with free-roaming cat rooms in the county, allowing adopters to interact with the cats in a more home-like setting. The SPCA of North Brevard Clinic provides reduced-price vaccines to the public and has performed more than 50,000 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries since 1999. For more information about the SPCA of North Brevard, go to





Kylie Tumiatti

Volunteer, Operation Hope

Melbourne High Senior Kylie Tumiatti has received recognition and numerous awards for a children’s literacy program she created in partnership with Operation Hope in Fellsmere. The literacy program enhances language skills among children of migrant workers. Her adopted sister from China was her inspiration. “I saw how she struggled to learn English and wanted to help others like her,” Kylie said. Last year, Tumiatti was named a TeenNick HALO Award Honoree by Nickelodeon for helping and leading others (HALO). In 2011, she was an invited speaker at the AsiaCALL Conference in Bangkok, China, and received the Nestle Very Best in Youth award for community service. She has also received recognition from the Future Problem Solving program. In addition to her work with Operation Hope, she volunteers as an ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children because of the care she began receiving when she was three months old. She was taken to Shriners after her adopted parents brought her back from China. When her adoptive parents arrived in China to pick her up, she had been abandoned, was malnourished, had frostbite and a staph infection. U.S. doctors called her a miracle child after her recovery at Shriners. “I could have been in another situation; I am so lucky to be where I am,” Kylie explained. For more information about Operation Hope, go to


Botavia Jackson

Director of the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids, Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition

For the past 10 years Botavia Jackson has devoted her life to changing the lives of children and teens in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood of Melbourne. She is the director of the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids (DOCK), a program of the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition. The DOCK is a community center where children and teens of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood receive a healthy snack, help with homework, computer lessons, art classes, faith lessons, and recreation after school and during the summer. The faith-based organization “nurtures the whole child,” Botavia said. “We teach them how to live a positive life using the Bible,” she explained. The goal at The DOCK is to enable children to compete more effectively with their peers today and provide them with critical skills and knowledge they need for future success. The DOCK staff, consisting mostly of volunteers, helps 45 to 50 kids daily. More kids want to participate, but they are on a waiting list because the building is at capacity. One program aide and five volunteers help the students every day and more volunteers are needed. For more information, go to




Lila Buescher

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Space Coast Center for Mothers with Children

Lila Buescher, Space Coast Center (SCC) for Mothers and Children co-founder and chief executive officer, has been a philanthropist and community volunteer championing programs that improve the lives of children in Brevard County for more than 23 years. Since 2008 she has devoted an average of 80 hours a week to homeless mothers and their children through SCC for Mothers with Children. The nonprofit organization aims to break the cycle of generational homelessness and poverty by practicing a holistic approach with its clients. “My mission through SCC is to give mothers the opportunity to change their hearts,” Lila said. “I’m dedicated to building an extensive network of talented professionals and community volunteers and leaders who share a passion to help individuals in need.” For more information about SCC for Mothers with Children, go to